By KATHLEEN MEGAN, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hartford Courant
9:54 PM EDT, March 26, 2013
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's nomination of a charter school executive to the state Board of Education has met with a brushfire of opposition from a teachers union.
Earlier this month, Malloy nominated Andrea Comer, 47, chief operating officer for the charter school group FUSE (Family Urban Schools of Excellence), the Hartford organization that manages Jumoke Academy.
"It is extremely disappointing that the governor would appoint a person so into charter schools as she is," said Andrea Johnson, president of the Hartford Federation of Teachers. "It's just a slap in the face of every public school teacher. It's terrible.'
"Once again, it's the governor acting like the reformer that he's not. It's the governor and [State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor] wanting to get more reform people into the public sector."
Eric Bailey, spokesman for the Connecticut chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, said: "We don't believe that her appointment to the state Board of Education represents the balanced approach necessary to ensure that the children of Connecticut are getting the kind of education they need."
Although often run by private nonprofit groups, charters are public schools. Some critics fear that their proponents want to see them proliferate and largely privatize education.
Andrew Doba, spokesman for the governor said in an e-mail, "We believe the State Board of Education should reflect a diversity of opinion, and Andrea's experience will add to the board's diversity. And it's not just the administration that thinks so. Her nomination was unanimously approved by the Executive Nomination Committee."
Her nomination is expected to go to a vote of lawmakers in early April. Comer, a former Hartford board of education member, resigned as communications director for Mayor Pedro Segarra last April to take the job with FUSE.
Between 2009 and 2011, she served as community outreach director for the charter school group Achievement First. She was a Courant reporter and copy editor in the '90s.
Comer said Tuesday that she will be able to separate her employment from her role on the state Board of Education. "My profession is what I do, it's not who I am, especially during the time I've been advocating for the community with the Hartford School Board or Achievement First… I've learned that parents don't care what you call it, they just want a great education for their children."
Comer said she would abstain from voting on any issues that "directly involve my employer."
"I'm honored that Governor Malloy thought enough of me to select me for this appointment," Comer said. "My heart has always been with my community and serving the children in the community. I'm hoping to be able to represent the best interest of all the children in the state from a policy perspective."
In his blog, "Wait, What?" Jonathan Pelto, a former state legislator, raised questions about whether an appointment of Comer would be "a conflict of interest" and wrote about Comer's decision to leave her daughter enrolled in the eighth grade in Windsor public schools after she moved from Windsor to Hartford in 2002.
Comer said Tuesday that "ignorance of the law is no excuse." But she explained that she had just taken a job with Mayor Eddie Perez and had to move mid-year from Windsor into Hartford. She had been living in Windsor for three years, she said, and didn't want to transfer her daughter out of school mid-year.
When Windsor public schools discovered the situation and demanded tuition, Comer at first fought it.
"It was the middle of the year," Comer said. "In my mind, it didn't make sense."
But in the end, Comer said, she realized, "I made a mistake and I accepted responsibility. She said she paid $5,000 to Windsor in tuition.
Her daughter went to high school in Hartford.
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